When my sister's incident happened, Allison was about 18 months old. Ethan was 6. When it initially happened, we didn't tell Ethan about it, because we were not sure what the prognosis was going to be, and how do you tell a 6 year old he might never see his Aunt Sessee again? I just couldn't go there.
I remember the day that I finally did tell him. Normally, he is quite sensitive to stressful situations, so I was so nervous. He handled it as though I told him she had a common cold.
I also remember the day I first took my kids to see her. She was off the ventilator, but VERY confused and disoriented. She hardly knew who we were, and I didn't know how Ethan would feel if she had no idea who he was. I prepared him for this as best as I could, and he handled it, again, like a trooper.
Allison has zero recollection of the Leslie pre-accident. The Leslie she knows now is the only Leslie she has ever known. Ethan, though. Ethan knows. And even though he is very young, he remembers very detailed memories.
For instance, this past week was take your child to work day. Jay and I do not have jobs that allow children to go to, but my sister, as a teacher, took Ethan the year prior to her incident. He absolutely LOVED it. She loved taking him. Ethan's teacher sent me an e-mail stating that Ethan told her that he used to be able to do take your child to work day "before Sessee got sick."
My heart broke when I heard this, and I am surprised at the tears that filled my eyes, as I very rarely cry about her incident anymore. It's just the mere fact that he remembers.
I carry a picture of my sister when her condition was critical and she was on the vent. I keep it in the visor in my car, occasionally putting it in my purse or work bag, depending on how I am feeling. Why I do that, I am not completely sure, but I do.
Anyhow, I was driving the other day with both Ethan and Allison in the back seat. Ethan asked if he could see the picture. I handed it to him, and literally at the exact same time, both of my kids looked at the picture and said "ohhhhh" with a strong hint of sadness in their voices. The picture is not new to them. They have seen it before. It was just like they both simultaneously needed that gently reminder.
There is no doubt you learn to adapt when life changes on you without your consent. You have no choice. But it is nice, in a strange sense, to have little reminders such as these two circumstances, that you never completely forget.